World's greatest drummers take centre place in Cork photographer's new book

Cork-born photographer Deirdre O’Callaghan took pictures of some of the world’s greatest drummers for her new book, writes Don O’Mahony

World's greatest drummers take centre place in Cork photographer's new book

“WE ALWAYS had music everywhere in the house,” says Deirdre O’Callaghan about growing up in Passage West near Cork City in a household of three music fanatic brothers and a sister who studied music in college.

At the age of 18, she moved to London in the late 1980s and soon gained experience as a photographers’ assistant, as well as working in labs.

Along the way she got to know famed British photographer Rankin, and when he co-founded Dazed & Confused magazine in 1991 he gave her a Polaroid camera to shoot a feature on clubbing in London for the inaugural issue.

<span class="contextmenu emphasis">Pauli ‘The PSM’, Gorillaz/Damon Albarn:</span> ‘What worked really well for that shoot was he was completely jetlagged. His kit was set up in his bedroom, in the corner by the bed. We started off doing some drumming shots and then portraits. I think he was so delirious by the end of the shoot he started jumping in the air and dancing around and just jumping off the bed, so that’s how we got that shot.’
Pauli ‘The PSM’, Gorillaz/Damon Albarn: ‘What worked really well for that shoot was he was completely jetlagged. His kit was set up in his bedroom, in the corner by the bed. We started off doing some drumming shots and then portraits. I think he was so delirious by the end of the shoot he started jumping in the air and dancing around and just jumping off the bed, so that’s how we got that shot.’

“Because I loved music I would also be very involved in what music went in the magazine. I suppose through all that as well I built up a lot of contacts over those years as well with the record labels,” she says.

O’Callaghan spent five years with the magazine before taking on a variety of jobs with record companies shooting press sessions and album artwork as well as advertising jobs.

“But I’ve always been into my own personal projects,” she reflects. “So always on the side I’ll have some personal project on the go, be it small or large.”

<span class="contextmenu emphasis">Zach Hill, Death Grips/Hella: </span>‘Zach is a very intense guy. Very intense. And what struck me about that shoot was it was a boiling day outside, a beautiful day. And when we get to Zach’s I was freezing. He had his air conditioner up right high. It’s almost like he wants to feel. He talks about this in his interview as well. He really takes things to the limits, to the extremes.’
Zach Hill, Death Grips/Hella: ‘Zach is a very intense guy. Very intense. And what struck me about that shoot was it was a boiling day outside, a beautiful day. And when we get to Zach’s I was freezing. He had his air conditioner up right high. It’s almost like he wants to feel. He talks about this in his interview as well. He really takes things to the limits, to the extremes.’

This began alongside her time with Dazed & Confused when she began shooting her first book, Hide That Can, which documented the Irish emigrants who ended up at Arlington House, a men’s hostel in Camden.

Since then she has embarked on a number of projects, including Coney Island and the Chelsea Hotel in New York, and eating disorders in young teens.

<span class="contextmenu emphasis">Dave Grohl: </span>‘It was such a brilliant shoot. He is just so cool and lovely, as everyone says. He just made me feel immediately so relaxed. And a really easy, lovely interview. I went off outside to look for a location to do portrait shots and I had to walk through the kids’ room. I didn’t think about it first but as I came back I thought, Oh my God, this is brilliant. I wonder will he do it — shooting in the kids’ room. But immediately he was like, “Yeah. Cool”.’
Dave Grohl: ‘It was such a brilliant shoot. He is just so cool and lovely, as everyone says. He just made me feel immediately so relaxed. And a really easy, lovely interview. I went off outside to look for a location to do portrait shots and I had to walk through the kids’ room. I didn’t think about it first but as I came back I thought, Oh my God, this is brilliant. I wonder will he do it — shooting in the kids’ room. But immediately he was like, “Yeah. Cool”.’

The Drum Thing sees her return to music, but it was never intended to be a book. “I always thought about doing a project on drummers,” she explains.

“I love the rhythm section. As musicians, a lot of drummers are underrated. I’m very drawn to the type of person who would choose to be a drummer.”

<span class="contextmenu emphasis">Horsemouth, reggae session drummer:</span> ‘He had the carpet under his drums set out in the garden, so it’s obviously somewhere he sets up quite a lot to play.’
Horsemouth, reggae session drummer: ‘He had the carpet under his drums set out in the garden, so it’s obviously somewhere he sets up quite a lot to play.’

Initially a straight photography project, she soon expanded it to include interviews with her 98 subjects.

Among them were Ringo Starr, Questlove, and a range of others from various musical genres.

“I’m a photographer so it’s all about the pictures, but then as I was chatting to people I had to start recording. When I started as well it was all about people at their kits playing, but then as time went on I realised I’m really going to have to vary this because there’s only so many ways I can make this look interesting. So that’s when I really opened it up.

<span class="contextmenu emphasis">Larry Mullen, U2:</span> ‘It was actually Larry’s idea to have him standing up. That was his idea, and it’s different to everyone else in the book. I just think the fact that I had worked with him before helped loads and I’d met him before and everything, so it was great. He was just so lovely. He made it so easy.’
Larry Mullen, U2: ‘It was actually Larry’s idea to have him standing up. That was his idea, and it’s different to everyone else in the book. I just think the fact that I had worked with him before helped loads and I’d met him before and everything, so it was great. He was just so lovely. He made it so easy.’

“I think that’s something that’s really lovely. It’s like really seeing people’s environments as well makes it really personal.”

  • The Drum Thing is published by Prestel, www.deirdreocallaghan.com

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